Published: Oct. 10, 2018

DPS grant awardCU Engage is pleased to announce new resources to deepen and advance our partnership with the Student Voice and Leadership program in Denver Public Schools and scholars from UC Denver and Rowan University.  This Research-Practice Partnership recently received $1.4 million from the Hewlett Foundation ($1 million) and Jobs for the Future ($400,000) in critical funding to support the expansion of SVL's action civics and critical civic inquiry work across high schools and a comparative study of student leadership with a community organizing group in Philadelphia.

According to the press release from Denver Public Schools announcing the new grant, "The grant projects respond to the nationwide challenge of preparing all students to participate as active citizens of a democracy and aims to study and scale an approach to youth civic and leadership development offered by SVL programming, called action civics. Additionally, students will have the opportunity to identify a compelling problem motivated by tensions between their everyday experiences and dreams for the future – particularly tensions related to issues of equity and social justice – study that problem through original research, and then advance their ideas by sharing their work with school leaders, policymakers or other public audiences."

CU Engage faculty director Ben Kirshner and Professor of Education is one of the Principal Investigators on the project, along with Dr. Carlos Hipolito Delgado (UC Denver) and Dr. Shelley Zion (Rowan University). “It’s exciting for me to be part of this initiative to design, sustain, and expand opportunities for critical and transformative student voice, in partnership with DPS’s Student Voice and Leadership (SVL) program. Our research team will document student learning and the factors that influence program expansion. We are eager to support this initiative in which young people develop leadership skills, organize their peers, and influence decision-making about education policies,” Dr. Kirshner says.

Perhaps the most exciting aspect of this new funding to support the research-practice partnership and the SVL program is the impact the expanding program will have on even more students, many of whom are from underrepresented or marginalized backgrounds. One current SVL student participant, Jocelyn Arguelles, a senior at DCIS Baker and executive leader of the Student Board of Education (SBOE), put it this way in a press conference on Monday: “Because of some of my identities, like being young, brown and undocumented, I felt silenced my whole life. But when I joined the SBOE, I realized that people like me had a voice and they shared their opinions fearlessly. I learned not to be afraid and to speak up about the inequities in my education.”

CU Boulder is proud to be partnering with Solicia Lopez, Ananas Khogali-Mustafa, and John Albright from Denver Public Schools on this important endeavor to increase opportunities for authentic student leadership and participation within the DPS system. As DPS wrote in their press release, "When students discover their core strengths and apply them in real-world experiences through the SVL program, students and school cultures are transformed. By nurturing the whole child, supporting youth/adult partnerships and leveraging community assets, SVL programs are life-changing for Denver students."

CU Boulder research team members include, in alphabetical order: Adán Garcia (education MA student), Ginnie Logan (education doctoral student), Vanessa Roberts (sociology doctoral student), Dr. Siomara Valladares (CU Engage Research Associate), and Dr. Julissa Ventura (CU Boulder Chancellor’s Postdoctoral Fellow). We are joined by Nina Naghib, a doctoral student from Rowan University, and Dane Stickney, a doctoral student from UC Denver.